I got married exactly one year ago to my now-husband. We decided to get hitched at City Hall and because he’s foreign, the whole thing was organized very quickly, with both our families flying to the west coast on a week’s notice, from different countries. We sent out a last minute email to our very large group of good friends saying that we were getting hitched at the courthouse but we were having a reception that night. The whole thing was very informal (just like we wanted it) and all our friends came and we all had a great time.
The problem is, only two of our friends got us wedding gifts. I don’t care about the gifts/material objects per se but I do feel slighted that only two of our friends got us a gift. We have a very large group of friends who we socialize with on a weekly basis. Other than this, our friends are wonderful people, always there for us and I honestly couldn’t ask for better friends. Maybe it’s because we didn’t have a traditional white wedding? Ours was very thrown together last minute, however everyone was happy and able to make it. Should I feel hurt that no one thought to give us a gift? It sort of makes me feel like they don’t take our marriage seriously. I have never heard of not getting someone a gift who comes to your reception and you see on a weekly basis. Am I just being selfish or is my annoyance legit? — Selfish Bride?
I’ve answered similar questions to yours in the past and my answer remains the same: while it’s certainly appropriate and good etiquette to mark loved ones’ special occasions with a thoughtful gift or generous gesture, gifts are not mandatory and should never be expected. More specifically, when it comes to occasions where guests’ presence is the true gift, then the absence of a material gift really is not something to get your panties in a bunch over. In your case, SB, your guests had to scramble to attend your last-minute wedding. There were probably cancellations of other plans, possibly high travel expenses, and the simple inconvenience of suddenly shuffling schedules around to accommodate you and your husband. And yet, everyone from your very large group of friends made it. Regardless how many of them may have had tickets to other events that night, or already-accepted invitations to other parties, or plans to go out of town, they all made your last-minute wedding a priority to show you love and support. And you feel slighted?
The part of your letter that really gets me is when you write this: “Should I feel hurt that no one thought to give us a gift? It sort of makes me feel like they don’t take our marriage seriously.” First of all, I’ve never understood when people ask me whether they should feel hurt about something. Cultivating feeling takes energy. If you’re going to exert energy on something, wouldn’t it make much more sense to spend it cultivating positive feelings rather than negative feelings? Oh, the energy I could save it I didn’t spend so much of it trying to squash negative emotions, and here you are wondering if you should spend yours creating it! No! You shouldn’t. That goes for everyone. If you’re sitting there on the fence trying to decide if you should be mad or hurt or upset about something, get off the fence and go do something productive and positive. In fact, go do something nice for someone! The world could use more random acts of kindness.
As for the second part of your statement — the part where you question how serious your friends take your marriage if they didn’t give you a gift, I have to wonder how in the world you think a few pots and pans, a set of bath towels, or a new clock radio would add legitimacy to your marriage? I mean, really? I would think people’s attendance at your wedding/reception would say a lot more about their feelings for you and your union than whether they picked you out some kitchen knives. Furthermore, who cares what other people think about your marriage? I mean, unless they are actively trying to sabotage it or they’re giving you the stink eye when you’re all together or what have you, then what they think about your marriage is actually none of your business and doesn’t really matter. It should have no bearing whatsoever on your happiness or the success of your relationship. What counts is how seriously YOU take your marriage. So quit worrying about everyone else and focus on that. Focus on what you share with your husband and how wonderful it is to have a large group of friends you get to see on a weekly basis. You’re so lucky. If I could trade the wedding gifts my friends and family gave me to have them live close enough to see on a weekly — or even monthly! — basis, I’d do it in a nanosecond. To be surrounded by love, support and friendship is such a wonderful thing. That’s the real gift. It beats the hell out of a few potholders and bakers racks, I’ll tell you what.
*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.